“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
With those words, the Founding Fathers opened the document that has guided our nation since 1787. The delegates attending the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia completed their work Sept. 17, 1787, and sent the new Constitution to the states for ratification.
Everything from the role of a central government to how to count population was hammered out in great detail and 4,000 words.
It wasn’t an easy process, but additional compromises — including the promise of 10 amendments to this document, the Bill of Rights — eventually led to nine of the 13 states ratifying the Constitution and establishing a new government.
The Constitution ensured the new government would provide representation to the people. The authors designed three branches of government that would check and balance each other.
The Constitution wasn’t a perfect document. It didn’t recognize the rights of people of color or women to hold property or vote. It counted enslaved people as three-fifths of a person. Framers made compromises in an effort to form a union.
But the authors ensured the Constitution would be a living document. The amendment process, though arduous, has allowed our nation to address some of those early imperfections. The 13th Amendment ended slavery. The 15th Amendment gave citizens the right to vote regardless of their race. The 19th Amendment ensured women could vote in this country. The 24th Amendment removed poll taxes used to stifle the right of citizens to vote for their representatives.
Today, we celebrate our Constitution.
There will be no parades. No one is getting the day off work. Your wall calendar may not even recognize this occasion.
But it’s the Constitution our elected officials swear to uphold and defend. It’s the foundation for everything we enjoy. When government goes beyond their limits, its our Constitution that provides a recourse.
And at the heart of it all is “We, the people.”
We are responsible for the people who serve our government. We must take that responsibility seriously, today and every day.
Start now and study the issues facing our nation — there are many. Then register to vote and show up on election day. Do your part to make this a more perfect union.